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Atom Bank or the mobile bank that does not compete for the traditional user

After receiving a full banking license in June 2015, Atom Bank became UK’s first mobile-only bank. The bank is due to launch shortly in Great Britain, sometime during the first quarter of 2016. In this Bank NXT podcast, Atom Bank CEO Mark Mullen talks about user experience, the importance of mobile technology in the banking business and, ultimately, about the future of banking.

BBVA currently holds a 29.5% stake in Atom Bank, a startup – or emerging company – that KPMG recently ranked eighth in its Fintech 100 list. Despite the implications for the fintech industry, Atom co-founder and CEO Mark Mullen makes a clear distinction between technology and banking, and shines the spotlight on the human team behind his company.

Using a smartphone vs. visiting a branch office

“It’s a business that wants to be very close to its customers, and we can’t think about how much closer you can be to your customer than in their pocket.” The idea that inspired the creation of the British bank could be summarized in many ways, but this declaration of intent is unbeatable. For Atom Bank, mobile technology is the key (the bank will not have physical offices or branches) and, from a user standpoint, represents its more distinctive trait and value.

However, Mr. Mullen, who majored in History, is convinced that the use of technology is by no means incompatible with the human touch. “It’s very easy to look at what we’re doing and think, “it’s just a tech business” […] but there is a human team behind it, and there will always be.”

It is not only a communications or marketing strategy, Atom wants to reassure people that they will be able to look into the eyes of the people behind this technology. Commercial and customer care services will be managed through videocalls and chat services. What customers won’t ever have to do is drive their cars and look for a parking spot if they want to “see” their financial advisor.

But technologically speaking, progress goes much farther than that: One of the first ideas Mullen had when he conceived Atom was the need to use biometrics, “the next logical​ way to identify yourself on the internet” (and via apps)”. A process that makes consumers’ digital journey safer. Thus, Atom’s future customers will be able to log on to the platform using fingerprint, facial and voice recognition technologies, as well as any of the developments to come in biometrics technology.

We don’t compete for traditional bank users

The spirit of the strategy that impregnates Mullen’s discourse is not competing over traditional bank customers. “It’s easy to say you’re competing against people who want the comfort of a branch.  No, we’re not. We’re not competing for that customer at all. We’re competing for people who already want to control their finances themselves, and for whom a branch is an anachronism.

Atom focuses on users that don’t just feel comfortable using mobile technology, but rather prefer it to communicate with their banks. In Mullen’s own words, Atom Bank “is not competing against banks with branches. We’re competing for customers who don’t need them”. During the interview, he also pointed out his conviction that “I don’t believe that Atom has to be for everybody.  It has to be for people who choose it.”

Mullen imagines a future of banking where the experience is like cruising in autopilot, where there will be less interaction and it will be like having a personal assistant. “The key will be to offer pertinent information, not so much the amount and detail of the information,” he says.

To listen to the Shaun Weston full interview with Mark Mullen in Bank NTX, click here.

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